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The Winter Chill: Feet and cycling

Podiatrist on a bike


Podiatrist on a bike


I reflect on my winter experience as I zoom along the lanes near my rural home with the usual awareness of cold feet and safety as a cyclist.

Ben, as ever punctual walked in wearing his customary baggy grey shorts and worn out crocks with bare feet. Dressed for work as a carpenter and fitter, this alone would seem a breach of some kind of health and safety. Having known Ben for three years, he has carried out a number of projects, but those visitations in the winter where it was below 5 degrees amused me in his scantily dressed all-year-round clothing. He was even married in shorts he informed me, although they were a little smarter.

I make it a rule to avoid cycling in icy weather or where rain could cause me to skid. Kitted out with high visibility gear I contrast with Ben in my attitude to safety. Cycling at speeds of over 30 mph (50 kph) is not without its dangers in good weather, but here, in our rural area, products left behind by many four legged creatures build up with rivulets of water running down hilly lands adding to the effects of a skating rink.

Most of us do not need drugs to open up vessels in our legs and arms to cope with cold weather. The seasonal chilblains (perniosis) and chilling is something to be avoided of course no matter how healthy we are. Having had surgery on my left foot over a year ago I seem more sensitive to the effects of cold and again poor fitting shoes. Old wounds and scars are notorious for their sensitivity. As a cyclist, a pair of waterproof insulated socks, correctly fitted cycling shoes which clip into pedals and a neoprene overshoe form my overall foot protection. This keeps my feet dry, comfortable and warm when lower temperatures are recorded on my home digital meteorological box. Living near the sea I have to contend with wind adding to the chill factor so even when temperatures appear warm, the combined effects with cold can still act unpleasantly.

While feet have to be kept toastie during rides; legs, trunk, and head are equally important. Quality fitted helmets with head bands covering the ears or a ski mask are helpful. Goggles or glasses to protect the eyes and layers that are wind proof. Having tried to cycle when the temperature is below 5 0C (41 0F) half gloves leave the fingers exposed. Skin soon turns red with the cold air and the circulation shuts down to preserve the skin. Pain arrives after a few miles and so a quality insulated glove is vital.

Hands are no less important than feet. While I am not a long distance cyclist I will cover 8-20 miles in a single run, more for fitness than competition. Local cycle clubs comprise fit men and women riding in all weathers, their slim bodies and skimpy clothing makes me shiver. They certainly look better in Lycra than I do, but who cares when correct cycle clothing is vital to cut down wind resistance and maintain comfort. Men often wear shorts during the coldest period of the year in the UK and I do wonder how they cope, especially on long rides. Most cyclists that visit my practice do so for reasons other than chilled feet.

Cycle clothing is personal, but the one thing, usually common with all ardent road users is their attention to footgear and keeping warm. Ben appears to be wise about his safety, but then there is his glass eye – how did that happen?

David writes on Linkedin regularly as a podiatrist and for Podiatry Now. You can read his Footlocker posts by clicking on the link below and downloading a free booklet on chilled feet. Share ideas on foot related subjects e-mail address – myfootjourneys@mail.com


The Chilled foot

Next month – Footwear can be Tricky

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